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My Apologies to Devin Townsend

So I saw Devin Townsend at the Gramercy Theater last week. It was, in a word, sextacular.

In an attempt to share the sextacular spectacle that was the show,  I busted out my new smartphone to take some videos of the VIP pre-show as well as the concert itself. Unfortunately I’m absolutely terrible at taking videos, and the phone, while a life-changing device compared to my last phone, was not designed to be a high-end multimedia recording device. Thus the resulting products are pretty lack luster.

Against my better judgment I’m posting the videos anyway. Devin, if for some reason you read this, I’m sorry for making you look and sound so awful, the show was amazing. Sometimes the video is ugly, sometimes the audio is painful, and often both the audio and video are a train wreck.

People should definitely follow the related links youtube provides to see some far more impressive videos of my current prog super hero. Here, I’ll help you get a start with one of my favorite videos featuring Devin (it gets especially good around 3:15). Enjoy.

Someone, Please, Help Me Like Genesis!

‘ve been a prog fan for a long time, so I’m used to not having an appreciation for music that everyone else loves. As I’ve said before, this is a source of amusement and confusion for my friends when I don’t appreciate a lot of ‘good’ bands like The Rolling Stones or The Flaming Lips, and I’ve come to accept this (and hopefully they will too, some day). But when I don’t appreciate the music that even other prog fans love, I have to admit that I feel a little guilty, and will try harder to give those artists a chance on my playlist.

Genesis for the longest time has been one of those bands for me. I understand that they’re super-duper significant in the history of the genre. I understand that they were the basis for a lot of bands that I DO like, like Transatlantic and Spock’s Beard. I can even give you a number songs that I like, and on good days, love! Here, have some examples:

Still, there’s something about the majority of their music that I haven’t been able to wrap my head around thus far. Maybe it’s because I’m not British. Maybe it’s because I’m a twenty-something in 2010 and not 1973. Maybe I’m just not comfortable with every single prog stereotype being so prominently displayed and celebrated for the first 10-ish years of the band’s career (and if there’s one thing I love, it’s stereotypes). In all likelihood it’s probably some combination of those factors, along with some others that I will never be able to identify. Regardless, as it currently stands I find myself incapable of enjoying the one of the few prog artists inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the same level that I enjoy so many other artists, and part of my really hates that. (note: I’m not validating the RRHOF. Those douche bags and their Rolling Stone overlords lost all relevance years ago in the prog community).

I realize this shouldn’t be something that bothers me. If I don’t like a band then I don’t like a band, right? It’s not like my friends are all laughing at me for my lack of appreciation of these prog legends (they’re laughing at me for totally different reasons). Certainly I’ve criticized friends and strangers for similar flaws in their musical tastes. My response to this possible hypocrisy? Shut up and help me learn to like Genesis.

I can’t honestly say that my previous experiences with ‘forcing’ myself to like a band have ever been successful. I tried to make myself like Rush in high school, and I failed horribly. It wasn’t until college that a more natural appreciation for the trio developed, and through that process I learned a lot about why I liked music, why I liked specific bands and genres, and how my music tastes had evolved up to that point. Maybe one day, years from now, my tastes will have evolved further and Genesis will ‘click’ for me without any effort. Until that day however, my goal is to at least have a healthy appreciation for the band and their place in history. I don’t expect them to assume some lofty place in my pantheon of prog, but I at least want to be able to listen all the way through The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway without feeling the need to skip half of the tracks.

If I fail, and months from now Genesis still seems as inaccessible to me as The Jonas Brothers, then I will at least be able to say that I gave them a honest listen, which I admittedly do not give a lot of other bands who probably deserve it. (Note to my friends: No, I will not buy the Mumford and Sons album, shut up). I just want to understand what other people see in the group, which I don’t think is so irrational a behavior.

Also, I just want to throw this out there right now, because I haven’t seen anyone else make this connection yet. You better credit me when you use one of these as a halloween costume though:

Crazy Costume-Off: Lady Gaga vs Peter Gabriel

 

Fairly normal
Kind of the opposite of corpsepaint…..life-paint?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kind of flower-looking
I WILL SHOW YOU WHAT A FLOWER LOOKS LIKE FOOL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all seen her poker face
I think giant bat wings coming out of your head are a tell…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your daughter may want to wear this as a costume this year
No one has ever wanted to wear this as a costume, not even Peter Gabriel

 

 

 


Who Do I Blame For The End Of The World?

The most frustrating thing Portnoy has had to deal with? Being a Knicks fan.

I was trying to explain the situation to some of my friends today in the chat room we form daily instead of doing our jobs (note to co-workers: just kidding!) It would be like Paul McCartney leaving the Beatles because he was having more fun in Wings. It would be like Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake leaving football and music so they could promote Panasonic televisions full time. It would be like Hulk Hogan leaving pro wrestling because he was having more fun on the set of Thunder in Paradise.

The departure of Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater has basically shattered the progressive rock world over the past 24 hours. Without trying to cast Portnoy as a villain here, his announcement last night has been received much how I imagine the American public received the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A large portion of the fan base feels utterly betrayed, and no one, including Portnoy and the remaining members of Dream Theater, seem to know what is going to happen next. For now, the fan base has been scrambled, trying to understand what could have possibly happened to cause the such an unfathomable turn of events. Naturally people are looking for a party to blame, and everyone seems to be a target.

A lot of fans are blaming Avenged Sevenfold, whom Portnoy has been filling in with since the death of their previous drummer. The obvious metaphor, framing A7X as a hot young mistress seducing Portnoy away from his Dream Theater marriage, has been tossed around by more than one pseud- intellectual. I’d suspect playing with A7X influenced Portnoy’s decision, but I also doubt the guys in A7X made a conscious decision to lure Portnoy astray. He’s a well respected drummer who they seemed to look up to, and he was just as honored to help them in their time of need as they were to host him.

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Arm on Stage: Sunglasses Under All Stars

I went somewhere on this map recently. There was no prog to be found.

If I had to tell you everything I knew about Italy, the list would be pretty short. In fact, since it won’t take too much time, here you go:

-The food there is often delicious

-The country is shaped like a Louisiana shaped like a boot

-Rome happened there

-The people are passionate about basically everything, from sports to religion to the way you’re eating your dinner (hint: they want you to eat more)

None of that however is important to this review.

The only thing I knew about progressive rock in Italy before today was that there wasn’t a whole lot of the former going on in the latter. Sure, there have been Italian prog rock bands in the past, but very few of them made an impact internationally (the ones that did have very awesome names though, such as “Premiata Forneria Marconi”, which translates to “Award-winning Marconi Bakery”). In the grand scheme of European nations and their production of popular progressive rock bands, Italy isn’t exactly in the top 5. Or 10. Or…you get the picture.

So when I was introduced to the Italian group Arm on Stage (www.myspace.com/armonstage) I really didn’t know what to expect. According to the literature on the band, Arm on Stage is the group effort of four different musicians who met for 10 days in an mountain cottage with the goal of collaborating on a record that blended all of their interests and distinctive sounds into something new and original. While the ‘lock yourself in a cabin in the middle of nowhere’ strategy might be a good premise for a romantic novel or horror movie, it struck me as a little odd for a band, especially one that had never produced a record together before.

The album they produced, Sunglasses Under All Stars, catches my ear for a number of reasons. The atmosphere created by the first track, “The Guardian”, is both relaxing and slightly haunting. The electronic, offbeat intro gives way to a smoother, bluesy groove that pulls you out of an Italian frame of mind and places you in a foggy Georgian swamp. Folco Orselli’s vocals across the entire album are another point of interest. I can’t tell if he’s shy or just struggling with his English, but I wish he would just relax and sing out the whole time, because every time he lets loose he bring a valuable aural texture that is sorely missed otherwise. Lastly, a note to the engineer who mixed this, TURN UP THE BASS. I say this less as a criticism of the overall sound, and more as an endorsement of bassist Alessandro Sicardi’s efforts that are going largely unnoticed, especially on tracks like “Desert Coffee” where his performance can transform the entire song if you mess around with the EQ.

My overall impression of the album is that there are a lot of interesting ideas here that don’t get fully developed over the course of the record. The album has potential sprinkled throughout, but never do I feel like any one track fully evolved. Some tracks start out strong but then don’t grow, and other tracks probably could have been re-tooled to create greater contrasts for the listener. Too often I found myself intrigued by the first 45 seconds of a song, but 2-3 minutes later not much else had happened and the song was over. Also the lyrics, which were written in Italian, translated by a 3rd party, and then sung in English, are pretty damn confusing, even for a progressive rock record. I’m guessing a native English speaker never got a chance to review the lyrics, otherwise lines like “Then I cave down/Saving all my insane side/And never be late/Looking at my feet up to down” would probably have been retranslated. Again, I imagine this was more a product of the band not putting as much time into creating the album as one might hope they would, especially considering it was their first.

The album did grow on me over the repeated listens I gave it, so maybe my first impressions were the product of my ignorant American ears hating everything not from America. Regardless, I’m hoping that if Arms on Stage makes another album they take another more conventional approach to writing the material. I think they could produce something much more developed if they want to.

Prog Happenings: August 24th, 2010

Prog Happenings will be a semi-regular (don’t look at the date of the last one of these that I did) summary of the various events that have punctuated the prog landscape recently, as well as some of my thoughts on each. Basically they’re the events that don’t justify an entire post, but are still worth talking about. So without further stalling or laziness:

Wilson/Akerfeldt project in the works:

I did not have to make this image. Prog fans have been designing album covers for this project for awhile now...

For about 8 billion months (that’s only 666666666 and 2/3 years), rumors have been popping up about a Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) project. These rumor have been fueled almost entirely by fans coming to a consensus on their dream ‘what if’ scenario, instead of any actual facts or statements by the musicians involved. In fact all three have said at one point or another that the project would be fun, but that there has never really been any plan to make it happen outside of casual banter.

Well this past week Porcupine Tree’s official twitter feed finally broke the ice, kind of sort of maybe. A new Wilson and Akerfeldt project was announced, and fans are already drowning in their own tears of joy. The album will be called ‘Storm Corrosion,’ which provides very few clues as to what the product will sound like. The tweet specifically tells fans ‘not to expect any metal,’ but considering both musician’s vast spectrum of material, disclaimers like this only eliminate 1 option out of 1000.

Mike Portnoy has not been officially linked to the project so far, which in my opinion is fine. Expectations for this kind of record are high enough without his participation, and if he did hop on board I feel as if the prog universe would come to a halt until the album’s release. Speaking of Portnoy…

Avenged Sevenfold’s new album debuts at #1:

How do we know this is a more casual gig? He only brought his 2-bass drum acrylic kit instead of the 3-bass drum acrylic kit

This is only prog-by-association, but it’s still cool. A bit of back story first. Avenged Sevenfold lost their drummer to a drug overdose (there’s still a little bit of controversy about this, but I figured any true rock star would want to die of a drug overdose and not for something as pansy as ‘natural causes’), but they still had an album they wanted to finish recording and then tour with. The band asked Mike Portnoy to step behind the kit for them, which he was humbled and very honored to do. A few months later the album lands on shelves, and to everyone’s surprise it hits #1, knocking Eminem’s overrated album off its perch.

This is basically the most commercial success any progressive rock artist has seen in decades, even if he’s working for another band. Portnoy also didn’t write the parts he’s playing, but at least he’s playing a kit of his own design (i.e. f’ing huge), so there at least a slim chance that A7X’s success will create new Dream Theater and prog fans. Regardless, it’s a fun moment for the prog community and both A7X and Portnoy deserve credit for their achievements.

Robert Fripp, Motivational Speaker:

The court of the Crimson King produces the best results with as little upper management oversight as possible.

Fripp has always been an eccentric character, so there’s not a lot of activities that he could take part in that would shock his fans. He’s also loquacious in his own quirky way, at least when he chooses to be (I’ve always thought he would make great Cheshire Cat in an all-prog Alice in Wonderland. Also, Tony Levin as the walrus). Well apparently his sister feels that the oddly conversational, oddly professorial tone that he takes in every interview I’ve ever seen was worth tapping into.

According to http://robertfrippspeaks.com/ you can now book the Fripp siblings at your next event, and if you’re lucky they may even talk about something having to do with your organization! Seriously, Patricia Fripp has been a motivational speaker for a long time, and I guess she eventually realized, or Robert eventually agreed, that it would be fun and/or profitable for the two of them to team up. I don’t know how much value my organization might get out of having Robert speak at our next gathering, but I do know that I’d enjoy the hell out of it. How many CEOs are King Crimson fans remains to be seen. If the IT guys were in charge though he’d be booked to the point where we’d never get another King Crimson album again.

Rush Parties Like It’s 5770:

I'm blatantly stealing this photoshop job from audioperv.com. I will repent on Rush Kippur.

I know my generation gets a facebook-wide hard-on once a year when Discovery Channel’s shark week comes around, even though 90% of us didn’t give two shits about going to the aquarium when our schools dragged us there as children (and we apparently have 0 memory as well, since there’s barely any new programming each time around). I can accept this though, because prog fans have their own marathon to look forward to every year (ok, so it hasn’t happened every year, shut up).

On September 8th, starting at sundown (ha!), VH1 Classic will be doing their quasi-yearly ‘Rush Hashanah’ marathon. This year’s programming includes the rock doc Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (which I reviewed previously), the record-breaking concert Rush in Rio, the premiere of Classic Albums: Moving Pictures and Classic Albums: 2112 , and an all-rush themed That Metal Show featuring Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. Neil Peart will be performing a 8 minute shofar solo that will be played in lieu of commercials. I’m also sure the following clip will be played 500 times, and I’ll enjoy it every time:

Neglected Proggers (Or: Who Are You? Oh, You’re in the Band?)

(Warning: This post has a lot of parentheses in it. Like this set for instance).

During the life span of nearly every band that has existed on this or any other planet (NASA has been doing secret bluegrass experiments on Mars for decades) certain events inevitably occur. At some point a band is going to lose its practice space due to uncontrollable circumstances, like an angry neighbor complaining about noise to the land lord, or the meth lab next door exploding and taking out the entire building. Sooner or later a band member’s significant other is going to make an innocuous comment about the band’s sound that becomes a source of band-threatening drama for a minimum of 2 months. And eventually every band has to deal with the fact that, if they develop any kind of popular following, not every member of the band is going to be equally appreciated. It’s not that any member of the band is less valuable, it’s just the natural order of things. A Justin Timberlake or Beyonce Knowles is going to emerge from every N’Sync or Beyonce and the Bitches (that’s what they were called right? It’s been so long…).

Progressive rock is no different when it comes to this last phenomenon. Sometimes the development of a ‘main character’ can result in the fracturing of the group, but often in prog it simply means that the vast majority of attention is heaped upon one or two band members, while the rest of the troupe quietly plucks away in the background. Being life-long nerds, progressive rock musicians are, for the most part, used to being neglected by their peers, and thus prog bands are less likely to break up due to these types of situations (though it has happened in the past, see: Genesis, Yes). In today’s article/blog/lesson/sermon, we’ll examine some of the most noteworthy instances of neglect within a band by the prog fan base. We’re a cruel bunch, but we’re no different than any other genre’s fan base (except for the fact that we have no girls. Still working on that one).

Dave Meros: Spock’s Beard

Bass gooood. Fire, RAAAAAAAAA

Spock’s Beard, if nothing else, has always been a band full of interesting personalities. Former front man Neil Morse was a spectacular presence to witness on stage, and who was able to transmit his own joy and passion to the fans through osmosis (prog-mosis?), this is until Jesus told him that his amazing powers were meant to be shared with a (some how) even more ‘devoted’ audience. His brother Alan is an absurdly creative multi-instrumentalist who refuses to use a pick while playing electric guitar OR dress like he lives in the year 2010. Drummer/New front man Nick D’Virgilio has the voice of an angel and the looks to make all the prog chikas swoon (if there were prog chikas, they’d be swooning). Meanwhile keyboard player Ryo Okumoto is either really insane or really Japanese, or both, no one is entirely sure. (note: A Prog Blog does not promote racism, you racists).

That leaves bassist Dave Meros. Bass is already a difficult instrument to become a standout player with, so it’s been an uphill battle for Dave. He does kind of look like Phil Hartman, which could be easily incorporated into SB shows if they were willing to incur the wrath of NBC and the Hartman estate (“I’m just a simple cave man bass player, your modern ‘amplification’ technology scares me”). Beyond that however he’s really the blandest member of the band, at least personality-wise. He does list ‘skeleton collecting’ as one of his hobbies, so that’s a ‘thing’ I suppose (a ‘thing’ that lands you in prison, depending on where he’s getting the skeletons).

Alex Lifeson: Rush

Guys, look, I brought two guitars, cool right? Right? This makes me interesting, right?

It’s really not fair that Lifeson is put in this position. He’s a gifted guitar player and the most easily likable person in Rush, but he’s often looked over because he’s playing with two of the biggest heavyweights on their respective instruments in all of rock. When asked who the greatest drummer of all time is, fellow drummers will either say Buddy Rich, John Bonham, or Neil Peart, and more of the people who know who Buddy Rich was are dying every day. Geddy Lee gets attention for all sorts of reasons, from being a monster bass player, to having the greatest Jewish nose in all of music (note: A Prog Blog does not promote racism, you racists), to having a voice so high that he and Jon Anderson have conversations that only dogs can hear.

With these titans in the picture, Lifeson is tragically forced into the background. Again, he’s very talented and he’s carved his niche as the goofy member of the band, but how many talented, goofy guitar players are there in rock music? 5492921? (Actual answer: 5492923, you forgot Dweezil Zappa and Janice from Electric Mayhem). Lifeson has been doing his part to get his face in the spotlight over the past few years, including getting punched in said face by the police. Being the only member of Rush with a criminal record is definitely a step in the right direction, now if he can only follow that up with some drug problems or a reality TV show (“Making the Band: Progressive Rock”. Make it happen VH1, I promise you it will tap into a demographic you have 0 clout with at the moment).

Jeff Coffin: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

This is actually the same face most people make when listening to sax too

Jeff had to know what he was getting into when he signed up to be part of the Flecktones. Previously the band had been comprised of genre transcending banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, modern bass god Victor Wooten, and his time traveling brother and unconventional percussionist Future Man. You don’t waltz into a situation like that playing a normal instrument like tenor sax and maintain any kind of pulbic interest for more than a month.

To his credit, Coffin has really done an admirable job of bringing attention to himself while performing with one of the most original bands in any genre. He’s got the whole Ian Scott facial hair thing going and he has a habit of playing more than one sax-o-mo-phoone at a time (to be fair, every 10th grade band student has tried this, he’s just the only one to make a living doing it). As noble as his efforts may be, he must have seen the futility of trying to stand out while playing next to a guy in a pirate costume, using what can only be described as a giant tumor as a midi controller. Thus, I can’t blame him for killing Dave Mathews saxophone player LeRoi Moore in order to take his spot in the band. At least in DMB he has 3-4 other musicians he can hide in the corner with while Dave mumbles his way though “Ants Go Marching”.

Jerry Gaskill: King’s X

Did you really need the custom drum head just for the X? Wouldn't duct tape have worked just as well?

King’s X is an appropriate band to put on this list, since as a unit they’ve never been able to maintain a position in the spotlight. They nearly broke into the mainstream in the 90s, but after that fell apart they never seemed to be able to maintain a solid following. Their fan base is large enough, but if mentioned to 100 prog fans only 20-30 might have strong feelings about their work. So why is Gaskill the outcast amidst this group of outcasts?

One strike against Gaskill is that he’s the only member of the band that doesn’t regularly sing. In a band with three people, two of whom having very different, very interesting vocal textures, being the silent member doesn’t really help your public image (King’s X nerds will point out that Jerry does in fact sing on the band’s various 3-part harmonies. I will point out to these nerds that Jerry has only sung lead on like 3 songs ever, so said nerds can kindly keep their mouths shut). Bassist Doug Pinnick is strike two. Pinnick is about to turn 60 and is some how still in better shape than any person you’ve ever met (seriously, check this shit out). He also has the honor of being not only one of the few openly gay musicians in progressive rock, but also one of the few openly black ones as well (note: A Prog Blog does not promote racism OR homophobia, you homophobic racists). He also chooses to spell his name ‘Dug’, something that the majority of the world has chosen to ignore as it’s far too silly for even prog. That leaves Gaskill to contend with guitarist Ty Tabor for most boring King’s X member. Ty has participated in side projects that are actually more popular than some of the recent King’s X releases, and his solo albums are almost universally well reviewed. That leaves poor Jerry in the corner. My advise, Jerry, is to do some sit-ups, change your name to “Gerie”, and start a rumor about a band love triangle. You’ll be right back in that spotlight before you know it.

Nick Mason: Pink Floyd

A pioneer in having more drums than you will ever actually use

Pink Floyd was a band defined by its drama. The bar was set extremely high by Sid Barret in the early years, and frankly the group is lucky that he took himself out of the picture when he did, otherwise we might simply know them as ‘Sid Barret and Background Noise’ (they also made all of their best music after he left, but that’s not important for this article!). Once Barret went off to play with the unicorns in his head, the remaining members besides Mason made sure there was plenty of drama being produced to fill the void. In fact they probably over did it, considering that any kind of communication between David Gilmour and Rodger Waters over the past 15 years has been seen as a major music event.

In the middle of this prog-tempest was Nick Mason. Sure, he has some of the stereotypical rock star traits like a divorce followed up by marriage to an actress, as well as a large collection of classic cars, but most Floyd fans will tell you that he barely contributed to the song writing or production process, and that in the later years he needed a team of studio musicians to help complete his parts. He’s also the only member of the band to have never quit the group, making him thoroughly boring. His one awesome contribution to the band’s catalog is the introduction to “Time”, which, at its core, is really just a bunch of random banging on roto toms. I love Pink Floyd and I love Nick Mason, but he more than any other musician on this list deserves his lack of spotlight. Chin up though Nick, at least you’re not Ringo!

So that’s my brief list of prog musicians who, for better or worse, never got their chance to shine. Since my traffic has shot way up recently (probably something to do with google bumping the site up in its search results), maybe some of you new readers would like to respond with artists you feel should be included in this list. Or maybe you want to tell me I’m stupid and should keep my jokes and opinions to myself. Whatever you want to say, say it. I don’t think I’ve deleted a comment yet that wasn’t porn spam (And if strippers started dancing to songs in 7/8, I’d consider leaving those comments up).

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Blaaaaame Canada, blaaaaame Canada!

I love the Olympics. No matter how old I get and no matter how much the event changes from year to year, I will always have an abnormal obsession with the story lines, the passion, and the spectacle that the event produces. The most recent Vancouver Olympics were no different, despite a comedy of errors that made the event a bit a gag for the rest of the world. However, things like a botched torch lighting and a serious dearth of snow were, for prog fans, only minor gaffes considering the giant maple elephant in the room during the opening and closing ceremonies. Quite obviously I’m talking about the absence of Canada’s chief musical and cultural export to the rest of the world, Rush. No one is 100% sure as to why the band went unheard during either ceremony, with theories running from artistic differences (the band didn’t want to have to lip-sync) to tragic circumstances (the organizers dropped the band over concerns of being too up-beat after the death of a Georgian luger days before). Regardless, prog fans from every nation were left wondering what fool had gotten bands like Simple Plan and Nickelback to represent the country instead of the most respected and best selling Canadian musicians of all time.

Fortunately film directors Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyen have given Rush a second opportunity to introduce themselves to a world that has only heard about ‘that band those music nerds and sci-fi geeks love.’ Dunn and McFadyen have already produced two extremely well received rock documentaries, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Iron Maiden: Flight 666. In Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage , they are able to pay tribute to the trio in such a way that they not only satisfy the demands of the band’s rabid fan base, but they also make the group much more accessible and relevant for neophytes. I was lucky enough to catch this documentary on TV one night (or rather, I was lucky to see that it was being shown at 1:00am and set my DVR to record it, but whatever) and as I watched it, I was thoroughly impressed by two aspects of the film.

I'm still upset Neil Peart lost the mustache

First, the variety of original material the directors were able to dig up is staggering. The band was well documented once they became famous, and a lot of the footage from later in the band’s career will be recognizable to their fan base already, but stuff like footage from a dinner where Lifeson tells his parents that he wants to drop out of high school boggles my mind. Who the hell recorded that! They didn’t have camera phones back then, someone was clearly standing there with this thing recording the family as they fought at the dinner table! Also included are interviews with the band’s original drummer, who was dropped because he was diabetic (ok, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but that’s the take away from the documentary. How fast would that lawsuit be over today?). These materials that the directors have found add another dimension to the band that even some of the most obsessed fans will find enlightening.

Secondly, the way the directors present the band may be the biggest step forward for the band’s public image in years. In their other music documentaries Dunn and McFadyen shape the storyline so that an isolated and stereotyped band or genre becomes much more understandable for novices. The same process can be observed here, and it’s carried out in two ways. First, candid interviews with the band members make you feel like you’re watching your nerdy, quirky uncle and not multi-millionaire rock stars. Viewers will empathize as the band struggles with critics and record companies, neither of whom had any tolerance for progressive rock at the time (which obviously totally different today, *sigh*). Neil Peart in particular remains a stoic and isolated character throughout the film, but the discussion of the various tragedies during his life and his journey to overcome them help the fans connect with Peart on a level that he’s never been able to do himself over the past 30+ years. Meanwhile Lee and Lifeson are able to share their friendship with the camera for the entire movie, paling around and acting as if they were totally oblivious to the fact that they are international rock icons instead of goofy teenagers.

The other thing that lends an amazing amount of new found credibility to the band are the interviews with some of their most famous fans. Of course progressive rock musicians like Mike Portnoy and Les Claypool provide their input, but the inclusion of musicians like Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Kirk Hammet (Metallica), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Gene Simmons (Kiss), along with many, many others makes outsiders notice that Rush has been cherished for a very long time, not just by the nerds you knew in high school, but by cool people as well!. The inclusion of other celebrities such as actor Jack Black and South Park co-creator Matt Stone are an especially nice pop culture touch. With the army of creative icons involved, this movie gives Rush a broad new appeal to a faction of fans who might have only been casually aware of the band.

This is really a great rock-doc that both appeals to die-hard fans while also pulling in those who might only know of the band from a friend or family member. You can order it online if you don’t see it coming up on your cable schedule in the near future, and when you watch it see if you can get some open minded friends to watch it with you. Rarely is there such a good method of converting the prog-curious into full time fans, and to waste such an opportunity would be like neglecting to including Rush in the Olympics. Again. Not that I’m bitter. F’n Canada…

Also, watch this, because it’s awesome:

Transatlantic @ The Blender Theater at Gramercy 4/23

The Blender Theater @ Gramercy. Tiny and understaffed.

Transatlantic is basically the Holy Grail for modern progressive rock fans. It contains members from four (five when touring) of the major progressive rock outfits, and their melodic, 70’s style prog fills a void that has been conspicuously empty during the reemergence of progressive rock over the last 20 years. Thus, I should have been far less shocked when I arrived at the Gramercy Theater on 23rd street here in Manhattan half an hour before doors opened and found a line wrapping halfway around the block. Grumbling to myself I took a place in line and quietly fumed over the fact that Transatlantic had been booked in such a tiny venue. The marquee stated that the show was sold out, which was hardly surprising considering the momentum behind the tour. The band had not performed in ten years, and their rabid fan base had become hysterical the moment the new album and tour were announced. Despite the fact that the tour was hitting Europe as well as North America, die hard (and apparently rich) fans were flying around the globe to see the super-group perform in multiple venues. This fanatical behavior was also fueled by the fact that there remains little chance that the group will collaborate again once the tour is over. However none of these factors apparently made it into the ears of the tour organizers, who, instead of putting the band in something slightly larger like the Nokia Theater, happily took the sellout in the smaller Gramercy Theater. It’s prog-oppression I tell you!

As I chatted up a friendly prog-fellow in line, I realized I could hear the sound check happening on the other side of the wall of the venue. While I couldn’t make out anything specific, I figured this would be a decent way of gauging of when the doors might open (advertised at 7:00pm). Unfortunately sound was still coming through the wall at 7:20, and the line didn’t start moving until 7:30. “Whatever,” I thought to myself, “now there will be no problems with the audio, right?” (answer: Hahaha, fuck you). As the line slowly started creeping up, I noticed that people were being led in SINGLE-FUCKING-FILE through security. Literally every single person was being patted down by the same poor security person. Maybe the Gramercy Theater has been hit so hard by the recession that they’ve had to eliminate all but one professional groper, or maybe they were hazing a rookie, whatever. The result was that the show didn’t start until after 8:30. Brutal.

While I wasn’t able to grab a spot on the rail as I had hoped, I found myself three or four rows back of stage right, easily towering over the people in front of me (thank you once again, lanky-ass legs). I was struck by how tiny the stage was, and felt some concern over how much room Pete Trewavas and Roine Stolt would have to play while sandwiched in between Neal Morse’s keyboard rig and Mike Portnoy’s 8-piece drum kit. After waiting for everyone to enter the theater in SINGLE-FUCKING-FILE, the band finally appeared, ushered in by the ambient noise that opens their most recent album “The Whirlwind” (which I reviewed back when it came out here).

This was the first time I’d seen 4/5 of the band live (like any good prog fan, I’ve seen Mike Portnoy perform in some capacity more times than I can count). Each member who I hadn’t seen perform before had some pretty funny and/or interesting stage-quirks that made the performance that much more enjoyable. For instance, Pete Trewavas seemed to be doing a spot-on impression of your stereotypical drunk uncle. His 5’oclock shadow would have made him look like a weather-beaten sailor if it wasn’t the wrinkled polka-dot dress shirt. If he didn’t fit into the sonic landscape so perfectly you’d think that he wasn’t even hearing the music, what with the way he bounced around on stage. As unstable as he can seem, his bass lines added the perfect bottom layer to each song. Fat, fluid, and groovy, Trewavas kept the band solid while adding so much more than just the notes he played. He plays a much more prominent role on the new album, and it’s fun to see him get his time in the spot light on a lot of those tracks. It’s a role he doesn’t get to explore in his main project, Marilion, and while he doesn’t look exactly comfortable 100% of the time, he definitely looks like he enjoys the opportunity.

Roine Stolt continued to make me question his sexuality with his half-open, flower-adorned, gossamer silk shirts, and jeans so tight a hipster would cry (and Roine, if you’re gay that’s totally fine! I just can’t deal with the ambiguity, it get my brain stuck in an infinite loop of questions!) Wardrobe aside, he was possibly the tightest member of the band on stage. He knew which of his parts the fans wanted to hear exactly as they appear on the album, and where they’d allow him some improv room. His solos soared and drove in all the right places, and he was technical without being overpowering. He was stoic, but he also clearly enjoyed performing with the group. One of the funniest moments of the show came when Neal couldn’t get the right effect on one of his keyboards, and mid-chord Roine leans over and hits whatever button Neil was searching for, and the two exchanged a very knowing, sheepish look. Those of us who noticed this in the crowd laughed for a good thirty seconds.

Neil himself is someone who I wish I had seen perform earlier in his career. Because of his choice to focus on faith-based music, I know this might be the only time I ever see him play, and it’s a shame because he’s extremely creative and far more talented than I will ever be at anything. On this night, his voice was dripping with emotion and power at both ends of his broad range, and I got the impression he would be able to entertain me with any instrument he picked up (that night he ONLY managed to play keyboards, 12-string guitar, drums, and sing). It’s also clear to me that Neil is extremely passionate about the music the band plays. There were parts of a lot of songs through out the night where he was visibly moved by what was being produced on stage, and he looked like he might cry during the curtain call. I’m sure it was a very hard decision for him to walk away from the group, and I know all of the fans appreciate his decision to give the band one more go.

People have argued about the spiritual message in a lot of the band’s most recent work (as well as some of their earlier recordings) and watching Neil at various points during the night, I don’t think anyone could deny that there were parts he was specifically communicating his faith. It’s hard to describe here, but when the up-and-coming DVD from the London show is released maybe it will be easier to discuss. Many of the fans were drawn in and responded to this kind of performance, which I can respect, but it did take me and a lot of the other fans out of the moment a few times, especially near the end of the first set. I’m still extremely thankful that I got to see Neil perform live in this setting regardless of any faith-based awkwardness, and I don’t think anyone should avoid seeing the band because they’re uncomfortable with Neil’s current messages, ESPECIALLY if you never saw him with Spock’s Beard.

Mike Portnoy, the captain of the ship, may have put on the most extraordinary performance I’ve ever seen him give. He’s was extremely relaxed on stage, moving fluidly as he changed sticks and time signatures, swung his mic back and forth from its suspended perch, (just get a headset Mike!) and dealt with what were unfortunately a number of audio issues through out the show. The number of changes he has memorized is truly mind boggling, and yet he pulled it off as if he was playing happy birthday. The physical stamina he posses is also highly underrated. Playing epic after epic has to leave his hands, arms, and legs worn out, and yet he maintains an aura of energy that feeds the other members of the band on stage. He definitely is the hardest working man in progressive rock, and he more than probably any other person deserves thanks for putting the band back together for (at least) one more run.

Daniel Gildenlow joins the band while they tour to fill out the sound the band created in the studio, and he’s really an amazing addition. I almost wish the band would go back and re-record a lot of the material with Daniel because he enhances the sound of the group so much (yet another reason to buy the DVD they’ll be making of their London performance). His vocal range is spectacular and seeing him play guitar and keys, at the same time, is both comical and impressive. He also has the rugged good-looks to make all the prog chikas go wild (if prog had groupies, he’d have a harem).

The band opened with the title track off their latest album, The Whirlwind. Seeing this 80+ minute epic performed live reformed a lot of my opinions of the band’s most recent work (again, see my initial review here). I found myself extremely engaged in a lot of the sections I previously found tedious and forgettable, while the sections I considered highlights beforehand became something even more remarkable. There were a lot of technical difficulties during this first set, which I initially found comical but by the 3rd or 4th blunder they really started taking away from the show. The band handled these issues as best they could, including a particularly awesome bass solo from Trewavas at one point (which resulted in Portnoy making the fair point “Why are we calling for a bass solo, he’s been soloing for 10 minutes while we fix this shit”). These difficulties aside, the first set redefined the band’s latest album for me in a positive way. While the overtly religious messages at the end of the piece still felt like an awkward way to close the song, I came away from the first set with a deeper overall appreciation for the work the band has done ten years after their last collaboration.

The second set consisted of the band’s older work. The performance here was truly special and something I won’t forget for a long time. I could gush for pages about the music itself, but the experience shared with the audience was the significant event happening here. The audience let the band know quiet clearly that they had been dying to hear this music performed for almost a decade, and I got the impression the band was just as happy to be performing it, as if they felt like it had been missing in their lives too.

During the first set I felt bad at first for singing at the top of my lungs, but I realized during the second set that EVERYONE was singing at the top of their lungs. Now for those of you who typically enjoy genres of music that actually have a popular following maybe this isn’t anything to write home (or a blog) about, but for prog nerds such gatherings are rare. Much like when I saw my first Zappa Plays Zappa concert and realized I was surrounded by fellow Zappa-freaks, it was a bit euphoric to be amongst other fans of the music that meant so much to me.

The American tour is now over, but if anyone in Europe is reading this and still debating if they want to see this show, stop debating. You’re stupid for even asking the question. Buy your ticket now if you still can and get the fuck in the crowd. Transatlantic is one of the pinnacles of the prog experience, one that may never be around again, and you will have missed something extraordinary if you don’t make the effort. Below you will find the set list as well as the best pictures I could take with my roommate’s camera from the few rows back that I couldn’t fight through.

You can also download a bootleg of the show on dime here.

Set 1:

The Whirlwind

Set 2:

All Of The Above
We All Need Some Light
Duel With The Devil

Encore:

Bride Across Forever

Stranger In Your Soul

Progressive Rock Stereotypes Part 2: Continued Cliff Notes of Hate-o-rade

Welcome back to class students, as we continue to review the stereotypes that make up that most divine of musical genres, progressive rock. So far we’ve covered some of the most frequent habits that progressive rock is known for, but there are still some other common characteristics that you should be aware of before you can consider yourself a fully informed prog hater/enthusiast. So without any further delay (I think 6+ months was enough) lets dive back in…

Stereotype 5: Girls hate progressive rock

"Why must all of the men in my life be prog nerds!"

The key thing to recognize here is that girls don’t actually HATE progressive rock. They don’t HATE video games, sports, beer, farting, action movies, comic books, or Dungeons and Dragons either. It’s just very rare that you’re going to find a girl who, of her own free will, chooses to take part in any of these activities. If you see a girl at a progressive rock concert there’s usually about a 93.521% chance that she was dragged there by her nerdy boyfriend/husband/legally appointed guardian and that she will have absolutely zero idea who Chris Squire is (even if she’s heard “Owner of a Lonely Heart” before). In regards to the other 6.479% of the time, the majority of those girls are just as socially awkward as you, the average progressive rock fan. So go for it champ, and have that supremely awkward conversation! Try to segue into a pick up line after your conversation about which Frank Zappa keyboard player you thought was the best (example: “Did you know Bobby Martin created a program called ‘Look Great Naked At Any Age’? You know who else looks great naked? *point at yourself* This guy!).

Rarely, you’ll find a totally normal, attractive girl without any obvious mental issues who happens to like progressive rock. However the most this has ever lasted is 6 hours, because anyone who has ever met this elusive beast eventually wakes up in their own bed, cursing their dreams for tricking them once again.

Stereotype 6: You can’t dance to progressive rock

To dance in odd time signatures, sometimes your limbs have to do things they aren't supposed to do.

This stereotype is the result of a number of independent factors. First of all, the only ethnic groups who enjoy progressive rock are white people, Japanese people, and people from South America. Out of these three groups, only the South Americans are born with the ability to get their groove on. However, there has yet to be a samba, rumba, tango, salsa, or pasa doble designed to accompany a progressive rock epic (which I find shocking, considering that it’s been fifteen years since Spock’s Beard introduced us to Senior Velasco, who does in fact drink his milk with Tabasco). So really this stereotype stems more from the fact that no one who listens to progressive rock can dance, not that the music is un-danceable.

That being said, I’ve never seen a dance floor clear out as quickly as I did when a band I was in in college covered ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. And if Pink Floyd doesn’t get people bouncin in da club, I fear there may be no hope for the progressive rock dance craze (which is too bad, cause I already had moves figured out to half of Beardfish’s catalogue).

Stereotype 7: Progressive Rock Vocalists are Horrible

He does a GREAT cover of "Fly By Night"

The least important piece in the prog rock puzzle is always going to be the vocals. Even when you have a phenomenal vocalist like Russell Allen of Symphony X, people in the progressive rock community are going to focus on guitarist Michael Romero’s stupidly technical and ludicrously fast fret work instead. Thus when a vocalist isn’t exactly at the same level as the rest of the members of the band he or she will stick out like a lone straight man at a Jonas Brothers concert.

Another problem (or ‘prog-lem’, my newest addition to the prog dictionary) is that many prog vocalists, while talented, chose to sing in a style that most listeners aren’t used hearing and enjoying. In this category we have the extremely well documented ‘guy who sings far too high’ (see examples one, two, three, four, five, and six). There are also the less frequently heard ‘guy who is trying far to hard to sound mentally unstable’ and the ‘woman who sounds like a failed opera singer’. It’s no wonder that bands will simply write instrumental songs and avoid these problems all together. It’s got to be far less awkward to tell your vocalist to take a 12 minute piss while you and the other musicians wank on stage than fire him or her, right?

Stereotype 8: No one can actually define progressive rock

Some people just like to argue

Well then what the hell do you think all these stereotypes are for? I’ll be honest, any time someone asks me how I define progressive rock the answer is going to be pulled directly from my ass, and the longer I go on speaking the less I know what I’m talking about (to anyone who has asked me to define progressive rock, I’m sorry, but I probably said something completely absurd and false to you at some point in that conversation and I hope you saw through my bullshit).

Defining progressive rock is like trying to define what pornography is. Everyone knows it when they see or hear it, and most people have to hide it in a closet to keep it from corrupting their children. Yet no one can agree on a definition of what makes smut smut and and art art. Over time we’ve agreed on some common themes and put together some loose ideas, but we’ve never been able to perfect our unified theory of progressive integration assessment (UToPIA). The problem is that we keep finding new bands that don’t meet any of our previous criteria, but we still want to embrace them as part of the genre. At the same time new bands continue to spawn that fit nearly every progressive stereotype, and we chose to shun like illegitimate children. Until we learn to stop these practices and be happy with the bands we have I’m confident that we will never reach UToPIA.

Stereotype 9: Progressive rock is the product of way too many drugs

Yeah, gimme a beer, a preztel, a hot dog...and....some of that brown powder with a lighter and a spoon please.

This is basically true. Though drugs can also be credited with jam bands, jazz, and every single one of Terry Gilliam’s movies, so they can’t be all bad can they? (note: A Prog Blog does not endorse drug use). In fact prog bands are starting to creep back into the hippie-jam-band festival scene, and the High Voltage Festival in Great Britain has an entire stage devoted ENTIRELY to progressive rock.

Sure, there are some prog artists that are either straight edge or too old to be hardcore drug addicts, but there are just as many nerds who get their inspiration from a bong as there are reggae artists who…well, are reggae artists. And I’m sure Robert Fripp has done just as much acid as Jerry Garcia. Some how though there aren’t nearly as many tragic drug related progressive rock deaths as there are in other music genres. Sure, very few prog artists are high profile enough that they’ll even get a 10 line article on a random news website when they die of whatever ends up killing them (odds on favorite for cause of death for every prog artist ever: stroke caused by attempts at writing a song in in 4/0), but the fact is that prog artists don’t really die, let alone die of drug related issues. Nerds just know how to handle themselves when it comes to hardcore drug use, I guess.

So once again, I hope this helps provide a decent framework for understanding the progressive rock genre. If you don’t feel like actually learning anything, you can use these tools to at least pretend that you know what you’re talking about next time you encounter a progressive rock nerd (which will be any day now, I promise!). Keep on the look out for further installments whenever I can come up with new things to criticize about prog rock and its fans.

My Very Umphrey Day Part 2 (@The Nokia Theater in Times Square)

The second half of my very Umphrey day started in the freezing snow/rain outside of the Nokia Theater in Times Square. In my brief time living in Manhattan I’ve come to enjoy the Nokia for a number of reasons, such as its convenient location and the superb job the sound crew seems to do with every band I’ve seen there. On this night, my favorite feature of the Nokia was the large overhang outside the doors, which afforded those of us who had decided to brave the weather in order to get there before the doors opened some small measure of protection from the elements. The wind was still whipping through the side streets however, so we devoted/crazy fans huddled together and waited in the wind and sleet until the doors opened.

Even though I had just spent the afternoon 10 feet away from the band, I still wanted to make sure I had a spot on the rail for this concert (and for those of you who know me personally, yes, even though I’m taller than every other person at most shows I still feel the need to stand in the very front. Short people can cry me a river). As we waited for the opener to take the stage, I noticed that the theater wasn’t filling up very quickly. Jam bands, unless they are national music icons, have never been as big a draw in NYC as they are in the south and Midwest, a trend that is slowly changing but is still noticeable in concert attendance. Between this trend and the horrible weather, I began to fear what the final turnout might be and what kind of message that would send to the band. Umphreys didn’t stop in NYC on their last swing through the east coast before this one, and I didn’t want the city to give them any further motivation to skip us again.

I put those fears in my back pocket as the opener, Eric Krasno and Chapter 2, took the stage. I had never heard of the group before, and while they made a strong first impression, they also didn’t really do anything to make themselves sound memorable. Their sound falls somewhere between Robert Randolph and Galactic, but never really developed into something unique. Eric Krasno, the guitarist, was definitely skilled and their vocalist, Nigel Hall, has a great voice that caught my ear when he sang (a lot of their material was instrumental). Also, I couldn’t stop being reminded of WWE star Kofi Kingston whenever I looked up at their bass player, which I’ll consider a positive because Kofi Kingston is f’ing awesome. They played a upbeat, gospel-style cover of ‘Get Back’ which started out with amazing energy and a huge reaction from the crowd, but somehow the chorus just died more and more every time they played it, and by the end I was just glad the song was over, which was a shame considering the momentum it started with.

I turned around after Chapter 2’s set to see if the crowd had grown during the opener, and thankfully things had filled out to a healthy level. The downside of this was that people began trying to push their way to the rail that I had been camping, without a bathroom or beer break, for about two hours. Now I learned long ago that there will be douche bags at every general admission show I go to, no matter what the genre or band, and that standing one’s ground doesn’t make one an asshole. So when a late-comer asked if I could make room for him and his lady friend, I didn’t have any qualms about telling him that there was no way what he wanted was going to happen.

After fending off the newly acquired masses and a bit more waiting, Umphrey’s finally took the stage with surprisingly little fan fair. For previous shows they’ve usually turned the PA way up and blasted an entrance theme for the band, but this time they didn’t do anything dramatic or even turn the lights down. They simply walked out during a song I couldn’t even make out over the din of the crowd and picked up their instruments. None of this is a complaint; it just struck me as a deviation from their norm. Maybe their backing orchestra got stuck in Secaucus, who knows.

I’ve been to a fair number of Umphrey’s shows in the past, between festivals, headlining gigs, acoustic 1-offs, and shared billings. Their best show in my mind will always be the first show in which I saw them perform, but that aside, this night might have been the most polished and tight I’ve seen the band yet. I’ve always told non-fans that Umphrey’s won’t piss off listeners who hate jam bands because of the endless, self-important musical tangents they drag the crowd through (see: Phish). Umphrey’s jams are much more cohesive and practiced than what you’ll see from other bands in the genre. That isn’t to take away from Umphrey’s improv skills, because the vast majority of their ‘jam’ material is still improvised, they simply communicate much more frequently and clearly on stage with each other than other bands do. Educated fans can actually catch and interpret the signals the band members are giving each other, or see the moments mid-jam when they’re talking to each other through their in-ear monitors.

The result is that the jams have clear direction and flow to them, keeping the audience engaged while the band is still free to explore new territory in each song. That isn’t to say that each jam is good; the band is in fact still made up of humans, but you never feel like band has lost focus or run out of ideas. On this night Umphrey’s jam-game was definitely the best I’ve seen so far. They also tried out some of their new compositions, some of which I enjoyed and some of which I feel like they need to go back to the drawing board with. ‘Booth Love’, a new, very laid back tune that they sandwiched in the middle of the prog-metal ‘Wizard’s Burial Ground’ needs to be developed a bit more, while another new tune ‘Conduit’ sounded much more complete.

Umphrey’s sound has and always be dominated by its dual guitar attack. In the past, Jake Cinninger has been the dominating member of the duo, grabbing attention with his impressive speed and stunt-guitar antics. However on this night lead vocalist Brendan Bayliss really stood out in my mind. He took way more of the solos than I was used to, and of course he dominated all of them. There’s always been a tacit (sometimes less tacit) battle between the fans about who the better player is, and I’m glad on this tour that Brendon is being given more opportunities to show off his equally impressive skills compared to his flashier counterpart.

A common criticism of progressive rock is that artists lose themselves in their technicality and fail to produce anything that an audience can enjoy. I can safely say that Umphrey’s has never suffered from this problem, and continues to distance themselves from this stereotype with every performance. I have no problem coming down on progressive rock bands who forget than they are musicians and not clinicians, but it’s clear in Umphrey’s song writing as well as their jams that technicality is only one attribute of their style. Their creativity brings them far beyond both progressive rock and jam band stereotypes into a new area that is entirely their own. Their melodies are catchy, their lyrics add layers of meaning instead of taking up space in the mix, and when they do step on the prog gas pedal they don’t leave the audience in the dust. If bad, over technical prog makes you feel like a band has shoved you off a musical cliff, consider Umphreys Mcgee your parachute, allowing you to free fall as long as it’s enjoyable but making sure you touch down safely, leaving you wanting another ride as soon as they’ll let you back on the plane.

Below you can find some of the many many photos I took during the show. I won’t post all of them because most of them didn’t come out too clearly (I blame my roommate’s camera for this, he needs to invest in some better hardware for me to steal).

Highlights of their set for me were ‘All in Time’ (which is always a great way to open a show), ‘Wizard’s Burial Ground’ (which I had heard previously a few years ago, and there was clear improvement on the solos and unison runs from the past performance), and ‘Nemo’s Fat Bottomed Good Times’. ‘Nemo’ is an original Umphrey’s song, which the band has taken to integrating with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Good Time’s Band Times’ and Queen’s ‘Fat Bottom Girls’ for a jam/medley/whatever with fantastic results. I also have to thank the band for replacing their original encore, ‘Ringo’, which I’ve heard about 80000000 times, with the much proggier and energetic ‘Mulche’s Odysssey’. That’s another awesome thing about Umphreys, is that the set list a crowd member might catch after a show will look nothing like what was actually played that night. The band simply goes with whatever whims they are feeling and substitutes tunes as necessary.

Speaking of catching things, I did manage to snag one of Andy’s sticks, adding another piece to my Umphrey’s collection. With a few more pieces I’ll be able to complete my UmFrankenstein. (sorry, I’m a fan boy. You should have been able to tell this by now).

All in all it was a day a fan can only dream of. I got to witness both an intimate performance the style of which few fans of any band will ever get to experience, and then later than evening was able to enjoy the full concert experience with a few thousand of my fellow UmFreaks. If you are fortunate enough to see that Umphrey’s is going to be visiting your town, even if you aren’t a fan, take a leap of faith and check them out. If you’re new to progressive rock or jam bands, there are few/no other bands that will give you such a positive impression of both genres. And if you consider yourself an experienced jam or progressive rocker, then you’re stupid and should know the band already. Shame on you.

Below you can find the set list, as well as some links (as legal as I could find) to examples of the tunes they played that night. Prog fan, jam band fan, music fan, whatever, I urge you to check them out.

Set One
All In Time > “Jimmy Stewart”* -> Get In the Van > All In Time, Conduit, Hurt Bird Bath > Tribute to the Spinal Shaft -> Hurt Bird Bath, Turn & Dub

Set Two
JaJunk, Nemo’s Fat Bottomed Good Times, August, Resolution > Push the Pig jam** > Resolution, Lisztomania$, Wizard Burial Ground > Booth Love > Wizard Burial Ground

Encore
Mulche’s Odyssey

* with lyrics
** with Hysteria tease
$ first time played, Phoenix